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The Dark Combo Trek League – 4 down, 4 to go :)

Photo by Ana Jeren.

Photo credit: Ana Jeren

I have been experiencing the races by Gelender Cafe for several months now, but I can already tell that Mrak kombinacija (The Dark Combo League, MK) will be my fav trekking craziness. 🙂

This is a league where you will get lost in the dark, hang off a branch, swim in the leaves, surf on mud, slide towards a stream, see traces of a wild boar (or perhaps the boar), search check points, explore the route earlier, not take the explored route at the race…and laugh and enjoy all the way.



To us, the amateurs, this is always a jolly little ride, I am almost already now feeling sad because in 2-3 years’ time I will have known all the spots on Sljeme and lose myself less. 🙂 The first round of MK was the Morning Gelender League 3.1. (details here). 🙂 The second and the third round will be summed up below, whereas the most recent, the fourth, has the main role in this story of half way through the league, so it deserves more words (plus I am still feeling it). 🙂

MK, 2nd round, Wednesday 3.1.2018 (Querry Markuševec-Gradečak-Tusti Hill-Markuševec)
The craziest uphill start, sliding at a frequency higher than the one at Blatersa, I’m eating twigs, pulling out roots, almost falling off a cliff, feeling mind-blank on the macadam, surfing mud all the way to the finish line…This adventure was preceded by a half-successful exploration of the route two days before (it serves us right, the two desorienteers in action on New Year’s Day following the New Year’s party). 🙂


1.1.2018. Exploration for MK Round 2: CP1 not reached, got caught up in dark, it was raining cats and dogs, CP2 successfully reached, return by Bikčevićeva, as wet as fish, as happy as clams.
3.1.2018 The three darksters at the finish line, new brand: Mudomon 🙂 courtesy of the craziest mudslide on Trail 20. (Photos by Diana Vitković)

MK, 3rd round, Wednesday 10.1.2018 (Firing Range Vrapče-Babin zub-Nogošin Hill-Grafičar)
I explored this route solo the Sunday before the race; you know that feeling when you start your journey bathed by sun, everything goes well, you reach a point where you are about to start a muddy uphill, you get lost in the middle of nowhere and end up kissing the firing range fence (??!), you cross the stream thinking it’s the trail 54 you were searching for, you are convinced that’s the one, only to reach the fence once again (??!). You turn around and take another route only to realize that that was neither trail 54 nor are you at a spot you thought you were – but at the very same spot at the start of that muddy uphill of 2 hours before! 🙂 The cell battery is long dead, I am left with half a banana, it takes quite a while to reach the mountain lodge (the finish line), I have three drops of water, and I see a roe deer smiling from the hill.

But I’m not going back – I don’t know if it was that in-spite-of mentality of my hometown of Split or the general life attitude “always forward”. Whatever it was, it brought me to the finish line.

That cheese strudel at the mountain lodge was a good fuel – what followed was a hiking/running 13k downhill to a street in Zagreb downtown. Well, excuse me, our coach told us that what matters is the time spent on our feet. So there you go, I am having it large.

7.1.2018 To me, the feeling when finding the CP in exploration activity is the same as the one at the race. My fav piece of fabric, I’m tellinya, I’ll dress up as a check point for Halloween! 🙂

The race was one of the toughest as it was a constant uphill, and we chose the macadam rout (meaning, I haven’t used 3/4 of what I had explored :)). What I remembered most was crossing that stream where I was trying not to roll down to it and having a nice bath, and reaching the finish line at the mountain lodge with the “WTF was this?” feeling, accompanied by dizziness. I am just so not good with the uphill, regardless of the incline. Note to oneself: train more uphill! 🙂

10.1.2018 Hmm, where are we jumping across the stream? 🙂 (Photo by Mirna Karzen)

MK, 4th round, Wednesday 17.1.2018 (Tunnel Gračani-Gračec-Mačkova Cave-Baćunski Hill-tram station 15)
When you spend several nights before the race waking up at one point and revising the route, and at another you almost poke out your eye as you are trying to “move the twigs”…this can mean two things at the race: you will take another route, and you will be twigslapped. And yes, what you seek is what you get. 🙂 Also, during the weekend before the race I crossed 50k within the regular trail training session with my trekking club, and whilst exploring the trail for the race. Tough uphills left me with the I-had-no-idea-I-had-muscles-here feeling, and I had to miss our regular running session on Monday. It was replaced by a forced swimming/hydromassage. You become hooked, you want the candy, and you act like a spoiled brat when you can’t have one. 🙂 (Btw, the pool was life-saving!) 🙂

ZTŠ in their Saturday distance-uphill activities. 🙂
Touch for luck. 🙂

The 4th round of MK was by far the craziest. A fellowship of 5 jolly girls gathered. 🙂 I was as happy as a clam as I got a new headlight, meaning I can now see further from the tip of my nose, not to mention that I wanted a Transducer ever since the first episode of The Girl from Tomorrow. 🙂


Start (Tunnel Gračani) – KT1 (Gračec) – the crucial stream – KT2 (Mačkova Cave) We all ran through the neighbourhood of Gračani, turned at all the right points, the transducer passed its test as it detected the CP1, everything went more or less ok all the way to the crucial stream, with the standard “Muuuuud!”, “Watch out for muuuuud!” and “Omg, there’s so much muuuuud!” The crucial stream crossing went well, probably because I had a look at this photo 15 times so that I don’t forget where is the big rock. 🙂 (It doesn’t matter that I missed two times the turn from the trail down to the stream.) 🙂

Sunday route exploration (used at the race: 1/3) 🙂

We took the route next to a gully uphill but then we got lost, as Yours Truly Miss Soldo was leading the pack. I kind of lost my cool then. Spin me three times and I will probably not know my name, let alone where is the North. (And why would I consider taking out my compass, I wonder!) 🙂 When I get lost during my solo Sljeme escapades, I couldn’t care less, but when I have my crew with me, the inner critic starts shouting: “You stupid, disoriented woman, you messed up everyone.” Our Butterfly (Hello there!) 🙂 saved the situation, although I was already acceptive of the digital variety of finding the right route. Two co-Darksters are hugging me and calming me down (You know who ya are! 🙂 :-* ) We found the marked trail and everything went according to plan to CP2. The route CP2-CP3 is for others to lead, as we decided to take one other route, not the one from the exploration activity several days before. What followed was quite hilarious, but, to quote my co-Darkster “Everything’s under control.” 🙂

CP2 – Mačkova Cave

CP2 (Mačkova Cave) – Tunnel Gračani (on our way to CP3) – CP 3 (Baćunski Hill)
You know that feeling when you have taken the right route, but you think you haven’t, so you decide to cut it to descend to the “right route”? 🙂 So we looked down, and started the descent. That was East of Brebak (meaning, the thickest contour lines on the map). 🙂 Let us summarize that 30-min butthill off-branching to my inner “Weeee, butthill! / Weeeee, I’m all muddy!! Wooohooo, crawling under timber! / Wow, the sky is beautiful!! I can hear a stream, meaning we are on the right track! / What am I eating tomorrow?” and the others’ “I think I see the traaaaail! Nop, not a trail! I think I see it nooooow! No I don’t! And my favourite by far, in the middle of the downhill, with all of us each hanging off their own branch: “Hey guys, FYI, you know that trail above that we took…actually it was the right one.” (I adoreya!) 🙂

The craziest unplanned descent 🙂

Towards CP3 (Baćunski Hill)
We reached the start line that was actually on our way to CP3. We had already known that we’ll be out of the race time limit, you feel sad, but your OCD helps you to go all the way. 🙂 I told myself “You are getting there crawling, don’t care.! Ohh..bit my tongue! 🙂 At the start of the race, we had received the information where to turnt at Bikčevićeva trail, and to keep the right side. We kind of didn’t hear that “right side”, so upon getting ourselves out of the leaves pool, we took the “wrong” side of the gully, the steeper one. I repeat, we kind of forgot that crucial “the right side” and so we took the harder way up. 🙂

There seems to be no end, but I have a good feeling that we are going the right direction. I am not thinking of giving up, I had already experienced a seemingly dead end situation and the only way out is: forward.

After all, there is an end to that uphill sooner or later, and this time I even know approximately how long it is. “Here it iiiiis!”, I suddenly hear, CP3 is there, I am yelling and jumping out of joy, trying not to spin around because, remember, three times and I have no idea what my name is and where’s North. 🙂 We took the same route back, down the gully, but on that side that was not that steep.

At the finish line, as usual, the when-are-we-doing-it-again feeling, accompanied with laughter and retelling of the experience. 🙂

#alwaysjolly #alwaysfun #alwayslast 🙂

I am entering my apartment, leeaving the leaves behind me and I start smiling. And the branchslapping left me with a scarface this time. 🙂 I am sleeping as a log, I wake up and burst into laughter.

If it takes getting yourself muddy, getting lost, swimming in the leaves, hanging off a branch…to sleep sound and wake up with laughter…sign me up for the rest of my life.



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